BoJo is a Passionate Zionist – What is that?

Mazal Tov and Hatzlacha Rabba to our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson! Supporters of the State of Israel around the world will be celebrating today. After all, Johnson is not just a friend of Israel, he is, by his own admission, a “passionate Zionist”!  That sounds pretty amazing, but what exactly is a passionate Zionist?  Is that somehow different to a regular Zionist?

In Parshat Pinchas, we read about the first feminists in the bible. Moshe distributes the Land of Israel amongst the 12 tribes. It was split based on the number of sons each tribe had. Tzelafchad from the tribe of Menashe the son of Yosef had no sons, so Moshe did not apportion land to his family. The daughters of Tzelafchad: Machlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, stood before Moshe and the leaders of the assembly to plead their case. Their father was a righteous man; just because he didn’t have any sons, shouldn’t disqualify his family from such a holy inheritance. “We want possession of this Holy Land as well”, they said.

Rashi explains that their request came from the love of the Land of Israel that was in their blood. That is why their genealogy is mentioned all the way back to their great-great grandfather Joseph. His incredible love for Israel, as evidenced by his insistence on being reinterred in the Promised Land, he bequeathed to his descendants.

The Chatam Sofer asks: How do we know that it wasn’t just about getting a piece of property? Perhaps if some of other territory (like Uganda) was being distributed, Tzelafchad’s daughters would have also requested it!

Originally, all of the Children of Israel were meant to have received portions in the Promised Land, the country between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. However, as we passed by the lands of Sichon and Og in Transjordan, we were attacked. We fought back successfully and their lands too, came under our control. At that point, two tribes, Reuven and Gad, requested from Moshe that their allotments be apportioned from the newly-conquered territory in Transjordan. One of the conditions Moshe set, as he acquiesced to their proposal, was that half of the tribe of Menashe join Reuven and Gad, thereby ensuring a constant flow of traffic between the two sides of the Jordan.

The Chatam Sofer teaches that the sisters did not ask for a portion with the Transjordanian Menashites, they specifically asked to be in the Holy Land itself. They would have been fine if they just asked to be with some of the family; they didn’t need to request to be in the actual land, but they did, because not only was the love of Israel in their blood, it was boiling over.

That’s the difference between a “Passionate Zionist” and a regular, every-day, armchair Zionist.  A passionate Zionist doesn’t just accept any old Israel, they want the very best of what Israel has to offer and they’re willing to put themselves out there to make it happen.  And Boris Johnson certainly understands that difference. He’s not just a supporter of the State of Israel but he’s “been on a kibbutz for heaven’s sake”!

Many of us call ourselves Zionists. We are concerned when Israel comes under fire. We’ll defend the country when others criticise.  We visit regularly.  Some of us are even lucky enough to own a home there.

But that doesn’t make you a Passionate Zionist.

A Passionate Zionist is willing to make sacrifices for the country. Whether it means serving in the IDF or volunteering on kibbutz or various other major life contributions, there’s a big difference between being an Armchair Zionist and a Passionate Zionist.  Passionate Zionists don’t just comment on Israel; they’re invested in Israel. Their contributions are evidence of their commitment to Israel’s future.

We find ourselves presently in the Three Weeks of mourning for Jerusalem and the Beit Hamikdash. How do you mourn when we have a State of Israel?  The answer is that we have to become Passionate Zionists. We have to recognize that something is missing in our Holy Land.  That we’re not there yet.  Near enough is just not good enough.  Just like the daughters of Tzelafchad, who didn’t settle for second best, we too should never be satisfied until we have our Holy Land in all its glory!

Shabbat shalom!

About the Author
Rabbanit Batya Friedman was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Brooklyn College and her MBA from the University of Alberta. She previously served the community in Hamsptead Garden Suburb Synagogue in London, UK and in Edmonton, AB Canada.
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